Tupelo’s prospects for a continuing major street construction

Tupelo’s prospects for a continuing major street construction program improved significantly Monday afternoon when the reconstituted, communitywide PRIDE Committee set its list of priorities.

The PRIDE Committee (an acronym for Public Roads Improved Development Encouraged) was revived and enlarged earlier this year by Mayor Jack Marshall. The committee first was formed in 1990 and was a significant influence on the Major Thoroughfare Program approved by voters in 1991 and implemented by the former Board of Aldermen.

The new PRIDE Committee was charged with setting priorities for a Phase II of the Major Thoroughfare Program. Its action Monday reduced the 11 proposals submitted by Mayor Jack Marshall at the first meeting last month to seven fixed recommendations and an eighth possible option dependent on adequate funding.

Phase II, like the 1991 program, would require the adoption of an ordinance setting special taxation and establishing a Citizens’ Oversight Committee to administer the program and keep it removed from the direct political influence of the City Council and mayor. The 1991 program, with a strong Oversight Committee, has worked well. It was designed to operate like Mississippi’s 1987 Highway Program, which, in effect, mandated where and when major highways would be built and removed that easily politicized process from the three transportation commissioners. The concept worked for the state; it’s worked for Tupelo. A new Major Thoroughfare Program should remain strongly independent of politically expedient changes under the umbrella of an oversight committee.

The 1991 program, with some projects still under construction, is funded by a 10 mill property tax (a mill equals $1 in taxes for each $1,000 of assessed valuation). The 1991 program also included a $4 million bond issue; the new program would not include a bond issue. The Phase II plan calls for a little more $2 million per year from the millage. About $3.3 million is anticipated from other sources.

The PRIDE Committee’s recommendation isn’t set in concrete.

It must go to the City Council, which must approve the recommendations and set a referendum date. Then, if the referendum passes, final action would be required on an ordinance.

The PRIDE Committee elected businessman Jim High chairman at its Monday meeting. High and other members of the committee should begin immediately explaining the proposals to Council members, answering questions from the public, and begin a campaign plan to pass the proposal should it go to the voters for approval.

It’s safe to say that the PRIDE Committee almost unanimously supports a new construction program and understands the necessity of a special tax to build the streets. It should take the lead in pulling the community together in support of what it has recommended.

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